In 2016, Pakistani instrumental quartet Jaubi marked the tenth anniversary of J Dilla’s demise by releasing an Indian classical tackle the Detroit rapper-producer’s “Time: The Donut of the Heart.” Zohaib Hassan Khan’s sarangi reimagines the unique’s jaunty melody (itself sampled from a Jackson 5 observe) as a wistful, virtually plaintive chorus, backed by minimal acoustic guitar chords. The star of the present is tabla participant Kashif Ali Dhani, who treats Dilla’s dynamic, behind-the-beat rhythm as a taal—a percussive framework inside which to improvise. In an exciting show of virtuosity, he traces and re-traces more and more advanced rhythmic patterns on the tabla, constructing as much as a metronomic tattoo that one way or the other nonetheless swings with the unique’s fluid grace.
The minute-long cowl serves as an ideal introduction to the Lahore band’s musical philosophy, one which marries the free-form improvisation of Hindustani classical and jazz with sampling’s whatever-works method to composition. This philosophy finds its fullest expression but on their debut full-length Nafs at Peace, a collection of seven largely instrumental items that incorporate Indian classical ragas, the non secular jazz of Yusuf Lateef and John Coltrane, hip-hop and funk. Custom and modernity march in lockstep on the file—sarangi melodies vamp over clattering Moog rhythms, space-age synths doodle across the tabla, every instrument including its personal voice to a musical debate about religion, spirituality, and the self.
Nafs at Peace was composed and recorded over two quick classes at studios in Lahore and Oslo with UK multi-instrumentalist Ed “Tenderlonious” Cawthorne and Polish composer Marek “Latarnik” Pędziwiatr (the classes additionally yielded Tenderlonious’s 2020 launch Ragas From Lahore: Improvisations with Jaubi). Hindustani classical ragas present the preliminary jumping-off level, however the compositions listed here are virtually utterly improvised, guided by little greater than a shared dedication to discovering catharsis and transcendence by music.
Thematically, the album attracts from the Qur’anic idea of the nafs (Arabic for “self/soul”). In Islam—particularly in Sufi and Shia traditions—there are three levels within the growth of the nafs. There’s the inciting nafs, which pushes us to take pleasure in our base instincts. The self-accusing nafs represents the wrestle to grasp the ego, whereas nafs at peace represents self-actualization, a self that has untangled itself from materials and worldly issues and located true peace. Drawing from their very own experiences of bereavement, divorce, drug habit and crises of religion, Nafs at Peace is Jaubi’s try to chart a musical path to the ultimate nafs, every observe a special vacation spot on this non secular journey.
Opener “Search Refuge” units the scene with elegiac sarangi and Ali Riaz Baqar’s delicately plucked guitar, backed by the seraphic refrain of a chamber choir. On “Raga Gujri Todi,” the sarangi sketches a mournful lament over an ominous drone, a sluggish build-up of stress that explodes into an industrial maelstrom of drums and synths that evoke the organized chaos of life on the subcontinent.
“Straight Path” is the album’s thematic and musical centerpiece, its title a reference to a verse within the first chapter of the Qu’ran. If “Raga Gujri Todi” embodied the inner dissonance of the wrestle in opposition to the ego, “Straight Path” presents a tantalizing glimpse of what lies on the opposite aspect. Sarangi and flute take turns tracing a raga melody over Latarnik’s ambient synths, earlier than Dhani’s dense tabla percussion takes heart stage, permitting the flute and synths to commerce more and more advanced and frantic solos. The observe ends with an ecstatic showdown between percussion and sarangi, one final counter-attack by the ego.
The closing title observe, lead composer Ali Riaz Baqar’s response to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, is a “non secular jazz raga” that serves as an elongated second of catharsis. Essentially the most conventionally jazz piece on the file, the observe contains a blistering sax solo by Tenderlonious, who leads the remainder of the band right into a sequence of incendiary crescendos, every member pushing the opposite to much more stratospheric heights. The thoughts has been purified, the soul purged, and all that’s left is tranquility.
On Nafs at Peace, Jaubi decide up the baton handed to them by ’60s and ’70s trailblazers like Don Cherry and Mahavishnu Orchestra, pushing the boundaries of South Asian classical music into new and thrilling areas. They symbolize a brand new era of South Asian musicians who’re neither tied down by the standard conservatism of classical music, nor burdened by the expectations of rebel. As a substitute, they provide a brand new path that side-steps such debates in favor of one thing extra visceral, extra important: the sheer, blessed pleasure of creation.
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